Col. (Ret.) Ralph Puckett Jr., new to the MOH at age 94
Born 8 December 1926 in Tipton, Georgia, Ralph Puckett Jr. was still at West Point when VE and later VJ Day came, and, when he joined the service as a freshly-minted butter bar in 1949, wanted to be a Ranger so bad that he volunteered to “take a squad leader’s or rifleman’s job” with the 8th Army Ranger Company since no officer billets were available.
It was with the Rangers that Puckett shipped out for Korea the next fall, having a meeting with destiny at a place remembered as Hill 205, where his 57 Rangers and Korean soldiers held on against six battalion-sized attacks over two days and nights in freezing conditions.
From his, eventual, MOH citation:
First Lieutenant Puckett distinguished himself by extraordinary heroism in action against enemy aggressor forces near Unsan, Korea, on 25 and 26 November 1950. With complete disregard for his personal safety, First Lieutenant Puckett led his company across eight hundred yards of open terrain under heavy enemy small-arms fire and captured the company’s objective. During this operation he deliberately exposed himself to enemy machine-gun fire to enable his men to spot locations of the machine guns. After capturing the objective, he directed preparation of defensive positions against an expected enemy counterattack. At 2200 hours on 25 November 1950, while directing the defense of his position against a heavy counterattack, he was wounded in the right shoulder. Refusing evacuation, he continued to direct his company through four more counterattacks by a numerically superior force who advanced to within grenade range before being driven back. During these attacks, he left the safety of his foxhole in order to observe movements of the enemy and to direct artillery fire. In so doing, he repeatedly exposed himself to heavy small-arms and mortar fire. In the sixth counterattack, at 0300 hours on 26 November 1950, he was wounded again, so seriously that he was unable to move. Detecting that his company was about to be overrun and forced to withdraw, he ordered his men to leave him behind so as not to endanger their withdrawal. Despite his protests, he was dragged from the hill to a position of safety. First Lieutenant Puckett’s extraordinary heroism and devotion to duty were in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service and reflect great credit upon himself, his unit, and the United States Army
Initially awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for his Korean tour, Puckett would remain on active duty, picking up a second DSC in Vietnam in 1967 to add to two Silver Stars; two Legions of Merit; two Bronze Stars with V device for valor; five Purple Hearts; ten Air Medals; the Army Commendation Medal; and the World War II Victory Medal.
He picked up his MOH upgrade last week at the White House, dressed in newly issued Army Greens, which ironically are almost identical to his 1949 service uniform.